From the Corn Belt to the Gulf: Societal and Environmental Implications of Alternative Agricultural Futures, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

From the Corn Belt to the Gulf

Societal and Environmental Implications of Alternative Agricultural Futures, 1st Edition

Edited by Joan I Nassauer, Mary V Santelmann, Donald Scavia


272 pages

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Nutrients from farms in the Mississippi River Basin are the leading cause of the Gulf of Mexico‘s 'Dead Zone,' a 5,000 to 7,000 square mile region where declining oxygen levels are threatening the survival of marine life. From the Corn Belt to the Gulf explores how new agricultural policy can help alleviate this problem, and at the same time improve water quality overall, enhance biodiversity, improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in Corn Belt communities, and relieve downstream flooding. The themes of the book are the far-reaching environmental impacts of Corn Belt agriculture, including associated economic and social effects at multiple spatial scales - and the potential for future agricultural policy to address those impacts through changes in agricultural landscapes and practices. We know that the environmental 'footprint' of Corn Belt agriculture extends beyond farmland and adjacent lakes and streams to groundwater, rivers, cities downstream, into the Gulf of Mexico, and, ultimately, to global oceanic and atmospheric systems. And we acknowledge that agricultural policies, including commodity support payments, have economic impacts at the national and international levels. Pressing negotiations with America‘s trade partners, along with increasing societal attention to both the costs and environmental effects of current agricultural policy, are creating momentum for policy change. From the Corn Belt to the Gulf presents innovative, integrated assessments of the agriculture and ecological systems in the Mississippi River Basin along with studies of local Iowa agricultural watersheds. Contributors from multiple academic and professional disciplines discuss how agricultural policies have contributed to current environmental conditions, and, in what the authors term 'alternative futures' for agricultural landscapes, envision how new policy can help achieve more beneficial patterns.


'Essential for anyone interested in the linkages between the management of our agricultural landscapes, downstream waterbased ecosystems, and the health of rural communities. This groundbreaking book analyzes ways to manage our Corn Belt‘s farms in order to garner improved environmental outcomes - without pushing farmers from their lands.' Sandra S. Batie, Michigan State University 'Solid science and inventive visions of the future show policymakers how landscapes that produce food, biofuels, environmental benefits, and community well-being could be the result of American agricultural policy.' Craig A. Cox, Soil and Water Conservation Society 'Shows how land-use practices in the Midwest can have profound effects on the environment hundreds of miles away, and how confronting these problems requires insights from ecology, economics, and sociology… The book gives new meaning to broad-scale and broad-based approaches to current environmental issues.' John Wiens, The Nature Conservancy

Table of Contents

Preface: Corn Belt Agricultural Landscape Values: Learning in the Field Introduction 1. Policy insights from alternative futures and integrated assessments Section 1: Environmental and societal drivers of agricultural landscape futures 2. Corn Belt Landscapes and Hypoxia of the Gulf of Mexico 3. Changing Societal Expectations for Environmental Benefits from Agricultural Policy Section 2: Assessing the Effects of Alternative Corn Belt Landscape Futures in Iowa 4. Alternative Scenarios for Future Iowa Agricultural Landscapes 5. Economic Implications 6. Farmers Perceptions 7. Water Quality 8. Plant Diversity 9. Pollinator Responses 10. Amphibian Population Dynamics 11. Impacts on Mammal Communities: A Spatially Explicit Model 12. Impacts on Mammal Communities: Landscape Indices 13. Wildlife Habitat Section 3: Policy Implications across Scales: From Iowa Watersheds to the Mississippi River Basin 14. An Integrated Assessment of Alternative Futures for Iowa Watersheds 15. Improving Water Quality from the Corn Belt to the Gulf 16. Agricultural Policy Choices

About the Editors

Joan Iverson Nassauer is professor of landscape architecture in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan. Mary V. Santelmann is the director of the Water Resources Graduate Program and a member of the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University. Donald Scavia is a professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, where he is also director of the Michigan Sea Grant Program, and director of the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Natural Resources
NATURE / Ecology